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14 Utterly Fantastic Books for Fall 2020

By kileyturner
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These books push the limits of imagination, unbound from realism and conventional understandings of time and place, exploring humanity's deepest fears and longings. They are also some of the most exciting books this year.
Molly Falls to Earth

Molly Falls to Earth

edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook

An enthralling debut novel by Governor General’s Literary Awards finalist Maria Mutch that is an inventive exploration of time, absence, and desire.

I feel in some strange place.
In late January 2010, choreographer Molly Volkova has a seizure on a crowded Manhattan sidewalk.
As Molly experiences the singularity of the seizure over the course of seven minutes, she is haunted by her past: memories of love and infidelity, thoughts of her family and her work, and of the city itself. She also refle …

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In Veritas

In Veritas

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

"Things that are and are not, she thinks, and the dog is a snake."

In this fantastic and fantastical debut, C.J. Lavigne concocts a wondrous realm overlaying a city that brims with civic workers and pigeons. Led by her synesthesia, Verity Richards discovers a hidden world inside an old Ottawa theatre. Within the timeworn walls live people who should not exist--people whose very survival is threatened by science, technology, and natural law. Verity must submerge herself in this impossible reality …

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Excerpt

Verity and Jacob exchange her pleading glance for his quick grin, and she edges into the front hall while he is still talking; it takes only a moment to slip on her shoes and lift her jacket and a soft grey scarf from the coat rack near the landing. A moment later and she is out the door, sliding her hands into her pockets.

If the inside of the townhouse can be a well of confusion, marked by odd flurries of light and the snapping ozone of Jacob's ranging hobbies, then the city, as always, is a tornado. Verity stops on the front step and closes her eyes until she can reconcile the clouds that passing traffic sends snaking across her vision, and the way the sun's warmth smells of oil and cloves. Only when she finds her balance among the sounds of the street does she allow herself to look at the spreading leaves of the oak tree, which chime like bells and lightly sting her fingertips, or the slab of sidewalk that tastes of lint and soiled leather.

When the world resolves itself, the dog is waiting for her. It is a worn shred of shadow sitting patiently at the foot of the stairs, and yet it has a particular solidity, as though the earth might crumble and open beneath the weight of its feet. Verity feels the gravity pull of it, and she stills for a long breath before judging it safe to descend the steps. The dog remains sitting, its yellow eyes watching. It wags its tail once.

Verity tries to keep her gaze steady, but there's a bird in the tree chirping a streak of mauve. Then the door has opened behind her and the two children are streaming out and down the stairs. The young boy's squeals are a spike through her temple. The mother follows more sedately, hands clenched on her purse and an irritated sigh puffing her lips. She pays Verity no attention whatsoever.

"Puppy!" yells the girl. The black dog bares its teeth and she wisely detours in the opposite direction, her small feet barely wavering. She has been distracted by something crumpled and dry on the sidewalk, about ten feet away. Her brother follows. Verity just glimpses the sad remnants of a cracked dragon wing and a scaled, half-flattened tail.

"Neat!" crows the boy.

His sister runs back to the base of the spreading tree. "I need a stick," she proclaims. "Need a stick. I wanna poke it." She sets one hand against the bark of the tree's trunk and stands on tiptoe, reaching up for the branches several feet above her head.

"What are you--oh, leave that alone." The children's mother finds her voice, stepping forward, her heels clicking on the steps and then the concrete until she can get a view of the sidewalk and the crushed form that has caught her son's attention. "Don't touch that, honey. It's just a dead rat. It's full of germs." She ignores the dog, but she does cast a glare back over her shoulder at Verity. "Someone should keep the property cleaner."

Verity swallows the taste of cactus thorns--she wants to say we have no rats--but when she opens her mouth, the woman has already moved on, grabbing the little boy's hand and herding both children further down the block. Her arm is already waving as she hails a taxi.

When Verity looks back at the sidewalk, she doesn't see wings anymore--only matted fur and the stiff wormy twig of a broken tail now naked and pink.

The dog has paced several feet away down the sidewalk, where it sits once more, waiting attentively.

"You want me to go with you," she guesses slowly.

The dog waves its tail again.

"Where?"

The dog only cocks its head this time, one ear turning sideways.

Verity sees the world stretching jagged and uncertain before her; in the shadow-dog's attention, she feels the pull of the magician's gaze. In the maelstrom of the city, her balance shifts.

At her back is the familiar comfort of the townhouse--the careful spaces she would know blindfolded, the golden dust of the kitchen and the safety of Jacob's flashing grin. She could turn and take five short steps to refuge.

On impulse, she draws a breath and turns slightly to the side, gesturing with her chin. "The, um, dead thing on the concrete," she says. "What is it? Did you see a rat, too?"

She is, she realizes, standing on a city street, talking to a dog.

The dog looks at her. Then it wags its tail again, deliberately, and lets its black tongue spill out over its teeth.

It is, she thinks, laughing at her.

Verity sighs, and steps forward.

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Swan Suit

Swan Suit

edition:Paperback

Blending banalities of everyday human routines and dilemmas with elements of fairy tales, magic, the macabre and the downright inventive, Katherine Fawcett’s fiction is anything but predictable.

In this collection, reimagined folktales appear alongside stories entirely new, serving to defamiliarize us from the undeniably odd tales we continue to pass down generation after generation, and lend a vague familiarity to the stories of Fawcett’s invention.

One of the three little pigs launches a lin …

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Girl Minus X

Girl Minus X

edition:Paperback

Fifteen-year-old Dany is trying to survive with her little sister, Mac, in a world collapsing under the weight of a slow, creeping virus that erodes memory. As their identities slip away from them, the late-stage infected are quarantined by the Ministry of Disease Control in prison-hospices, military camps where some of Dany's family have already been taken.

When a new and more virulent strain of the disease emerges and Dany begins to experience symptoms, the sisters are cast into crisis. As they …

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The Hush Sisters

The Hush Sisters

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

***49TH SHELF UTTERLY FANTASTIC BOOK FOR FALL***
Sissy and Ava Hush are estranged, middle-aged sisters with little in common beyond their upbringing in a peculiar manor in downtown St. John’s. With both parents now dead, the siblings must decide what to do with the old house they’ve inherited. Despite their individual loneliness, neither is willing to change or cede to the other’s intentions. As the sisters discover the house’s dark secrets, the spirits of the past awaken, and strange e …

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Different Beasts

Different Beasts

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Winner, Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Speculative Fiction

A bear runs amok in a luxury hotel. A daily swim at the local pool becomes a question of life or death. The champion of a border wall faces an unexpected adversary.

The twelve stories in Different Beasts ask what it means to be both human and monster. Shape-shifting waifs, haunted stuffies, scavenging drones, insectoid demon-gods, and mutant angels all come to life in this wildly imagined debut. As do broken soldiers, disgraced politicians …

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The Beguiling

The Beguiling

edition:Hardcover

“One of the best reads of the year.”—Toronto Star
One of The Globe and Mail’s 100 favourite books of 2020.
On CBC’s list of the “best Canadian fiction of 2020.”

An electrifying debut novel from the Giller Prize-shortlisted author of Better Living Through Plastic Explosives that takes readers for a wild ride with urban-gothic flair and delectably wicked humour.

Lucy is a lapsed-Catholic whose adolescent pretensions to sainthood are unexpectedly revived.
It all starts when her …

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Afterlife Crisis

Afterlife Crisis

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : humorous

 

For readers of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and P.G. Wodehouse, and fans of The Good Place – a tongue in cheek fantasy that imagines Isaac Newton in the afterlife.

Where do you go after you die? Detroit.

“Finally, a hitchhiker's guide to the hereafter.” — Corey Redekop, author of Husk

Something’s rotten in the afterlife. At least that’s how it seems to Rhinnick Feynman, the one man who perceives that someone in the afterlife is tugging at history’s threads and retroactively unrav …

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Excerpt

 

Preface

 

It’s okay if you don’t believe in the afterlife.

 

The people who live there don’t believe in you, either.

 

Afterlife Crisis is the second story in the Beforelife universe, a world you might think of as the afterlife. The people who live there wouldn’t think of it as the afterlife, though, because they don’t think that anything comes before it. They call their world Detroit. Almost all the people who live in that world have forgotten their pre-mortem lives, and think that people simply pop into existence by emerging from the Styx and getting on with eternal life. Anyone who remembers having lived a mortal life is shoved into an asylum and treated for Beforelife Delusion.

 

This raises a question. Should you read the first story, Beforelife, before dipping into this one? A short answer is “no”. A slightly longer answer is “yes”. But another answer, and a more correct one, is that it depends on what you want to get out of this book. Having read the previous paragraph you know all you need to know in order to follow the story of Afterlife Crisis. You’ll realize that many of the characters in the book are historical figures who now live in the world of Detroit without remembering who they were in the mortal world. You’ll understand that the people of Detroit fail to realize the true nature of their world, and that the people being treated for Beforelife Delusion are the only ones who get what’s going on.

 

There are other mysteries, though, that you’ll have a better chance of piecing together after reading both books. Who is Abe, the all powerful leader of Detroit? Why are some people in Detroit, like Abe, able to reshape the world to suit their whims? Why does Rhinnick Feynman, the narrator of Afterlife Crisis, believe he’s a character in a novel being penned by a cosmic Author? Why do some people reincarnate? And why are there so many Napoleons? Clues about these (and other) mysteries are liberally besprinkled throughout both books. And while you’ll be able to piece many of them together by reading Afterlife Crisis on its own, those who really enjoy detective work might have a lot more fun by sifting through two volumes filled with intersecting clues.

 

My mother says you really ought to read both books. She loves them both.

 

Randal Graham

 

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